Company and Services Overview 2011
created by GrowThink
Sahajo provides next generation water remediation, wastewater treatment and solid organic waste solutions that have an economic payback. Using intelligent design concepts found in nature, Sahajo’s BioReSys solution has lower capital costs, lower operating expenditures, a flexible and small footprint, and produces by-products with economic value.
Currently focusing on providing solutions to solid and liquid organic waste stream treatment issues for communities, the BioReSys solution can also be designed to work with many other industrial, agricultural, and utility-scale water remediation, drinking water production, waste water treatment and treatment of solid organic waste.
- Biological treatment of black water (sewage)
- Biological treatment of grey water
- Regeneration of natural freshwater bodies of water
- Treatment of drinking and non-potable recreational waters
- Biological treatment of solid organic waste
- Contaminated site restoration
- Restoration of natural habitats
Perfectly designed for a broad variety of applications, using a BioReSys solution can provide LEED credits for residential and commercial developers, and is an ideal solution when community benefit, education, or recreation are goals of a water remediation or wastewater treatment process.
Sahajo approaches our world’s solid and liquid waste stream challenges with a circular ‘systems’ approach that recognizes the economic and ecologic value of what is traditionally considered ‘waste’. This differs from the very linear approach that has shaped current water and waste water solutions into considering ‘waste’ as something to be removed or eliminated. Namely, the philosophy Sahajo has followed espouses the following core principles.
- Biomimicry – Sahajo seeks to comprehend natural processes and then design technology to apply biological methods that copy nature.
- Restoration – The best long-term solution is one that can re-establish the original functionality of a damaged biological system. Understanding that systems are intertwined, this is not limited to the ecological components of that system, but also evaluates the social, economic, and spiritual components of the system.
- Systems Interdependence – The immediate physical and temporal solution developed is interdependent with a larger geographic network and future decisions and solutions.
From these philosophical underpinnings comes the BioReSys solution. The solution is entirely biological and transforms traditional liquid and solid ‘wastes’ into valuable products without discharging any effluent into the environment.
The BioReSys solution has a wide number of ecological, economic, and social benefits. The primary benefits and key differentiating factors of BioReSys include:
- Flexible design – the solution can be used under a variety of physical set-ups and with almost any quality of sewage input
- Small Footprint – the square meters required by a BioReSys solution is typically smaller than a standard water remediation or waste water system treating the same volume of flow. Because of the distributed nature of the BioReSys solution, it can be designed vertically versus the horizontal requirements of standard systems.
- Aesthetically Pleasing – turns eyesores into attractions and removes obnoxious odors from the community
- Fully Adaptable – is designed to solve problems for the flow from 25 residences up to that from a large city
- Low Cost – 40% less capital costs and 80-90% less operating costs than a standard system
- Revenue producing – all inputs are transformed biologically into useful outputs with economic value
Established in 2001 by aviram, Sahajo Water (a subdivision of the NPO “Pont de Vie“) has spent 10 years in fine tuning the BioReSys solution. Key accomplishments to date include the following:
- Identification of best of breed component technologies and partner vendors;
- Floating islands proven to have superior efficiency to conventional filtration wetland techniques, and have become a norm in Germany for biological waste water treatment and water remediation;
- Signed MOU with city of Hanoi, Vietnam to build a 150,000 cubic meter/day (CMD) water remediation project to be financed by the Export Development Bank of Canada with participation by Asian Development Bank;
- Completed pre-feasibility study required to start implementing water treatment solutions for the entire Baku Bay area, Azerbaijan;
- Completed pre-feasibility study for Al Arbaeein Lake, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Sahajo Water, is a systems integrator and the provider of Bionic Regeneration Systems, referred to as the “BioReSys” solution. BioReSys is considered to be the next generation of water remediation and waste water treatment. In literal terms, BioReSys can be translated into three parts:
- Bionic – The application of biological methods that copy nature
- Regeneration – The capacity to recreate and reestablish the original functionality of a damaged biological system
- Systems – Interdependent components that work in unison to create a greater whole
Through BioReSys, liquid and solid organic wastes (sewage and organic garbage) are transformed into valuable products such as fertilizer, combustible gas or fuel for energy (methane), CO2 to feed algal farming, and ‘grey water’, which provides hydroponic, aeroponic or conventionally grown (subsurface irrigation) plants with nutrient rich water, without discharging any toxins/effluents into the environment.
This technology is an engineered biological water treatment system that mimics nature to provide solutions for water remediation and waste water treatment in a sustainable, affordable and profitable manner. In other words, this system uses the available resources in their entirety and transforms them completely into usable and valuable products to renew the original functionality of damaged biological ecosystems. As a result, this technology is considered to be a Micro-Industry that does not require a certification by the Environmental Agency but only a business permit for a recycling industry from the local municipality.
As previously stated, BioReSys is considered to be the next generation of water and wastewater treatment. BioReSys utilizes the application of biological methods that copy nature and work in unison to reestablish the original functionality of a damaged biological system. In simple terms, the technology applies biological systems to ‘bio-engineer’ liquid and solid waste into useful and valuable resources, including:
- Organic fertilizer
- Biogas: Methane & CO2
- ‘Irrigation water’ – nutrient rich water
- Algae farming/Biodiesel
- Hydroponic, aeroponic, and conventional crops
- Potable Water
- Non-potable water for industrial and other uses
Because the system utilizes biological methods as opposed to energy-hungry methods (reverse-osmosis, for example) for water treatment, it can operate with a closed-loop energy system almost eliminating the need for external energy requirements to run the facility. This eliminates approximately 20-30% of the operating costs normally associated with traditional, reverse-osmosis water treatment plants or high pressure aeration sewage treatment plants. Furthermore, no harsh chemicals are added to the system. This eliminates the expense of utilizing these chemicals and then having to remove them as a secondary waste stream at the end of the process.
With its intelligent design and virtually no need for external energy to run the plant and no usage of harsh chemicals, there is a two pronged effect:
- Low capital cost – Does not require expensive generators, large footprint, and related extensive construction costs to build the plant.
- Low operating costs – Does not require energy or chemicals, faces a reduced debt service burden due to lower capital costs, and is designed to minimize requirements for expensive personnel to oversee and manage.
- Generation of valuable products – The end result is that liquid and solid waste is transformed into useful and valuable resources that, through the sale of process by-products (listed above), provide economic opportunities for local communities:
- Biogas can be sold for heating needs
- Methane, if not used for cogeneration, can be compressed and sold for electricity and combustion engine fuel
- CO2 can be compressed and sold, or channeled back into the system for algae farming
- Biodiesel produced by algae can be sold
- Fertilizer and cattle feedstock produced by algae can be sold
- Fertilizer produced by fermenting biosolids can be sold
- Hydroponic crops grown can be eventually be sold
- Organic fish can be farmed and sold
- Potable water produced from the system can be used for irrigation, or put back into the local water source
- An optional component to the BioReSys system is a pyrolysis chamber where wood waste can be turned into biochar and syngas. The biochar is mixed with digester effluent to create a potent fertilizer. The syngas is a highly combustible gas which can be used to run internal combustion engines.
Solution with a Payback
With sustainable economic opportunities due to the investment in this system, there can now be a return on investment (payback period) for water and waste water treatment plants, which is very rare in this industry. For local communities and municipalities around the globe, BioReSys makes this decision a true economic investment rather than a capital outlay.
The table below provides an example of the impressive revenue opportunities available to the system owner or the community with a BioReSys solution. The numbers are based on a 150,000 cubic meter per day (CMD) BioReSys project in Hanoi, Vietnam. All assumptions driving the output production volumes and revenue opportunities for a particular output (e.g. biogas, methane, biodiesel, fertilizers) are based on well documented studies of yields and current commodity pricing. As one can see, not all revenue opportunities have been modeled (crops, fish, feedstock, and water sales are not included) yet there is a significant economic opportunity with the system nonetheless.
It is important to compare the revenues of the solution with the comparative cost of the solution. The following table below shows a side-by-side comparison of the total cost of ownership of a standard 150,000 CMD solution relative to a BioReSys solution designed for the same flow volume. The standard 150,000 CMD solution being compared consists of an industry-norm 3 stage wastewater treatment program of settling, filtering, and chemical additives to produce non-potable water fit for discharge into a river system or groundwater basin.
The BioReSys solution is designed to reduce up front construction costs primarily due to its smaller footprint and a significant reduction in volume of concrete and construction materials required. Compounding the difference in installation costs between the systems are the interest costs of the investment. These will of course vary by location and length of the term of the debt vehicle used for financing – the comparison below uses a 20 year term at 3% cost of debt (the higher the cost of debt, the larger the difference in total cost of the systems). The total paid for installation over the 20 year period climbs from $148 million to $197 million for the standard system, and from $85 million to $120 million for the BioReSys system.
Operating and maintenance (O&M) costs for a standard system of this size would be just shy of $6.5 million annually, driven primarily by the cost of energy, chemicals, amortized costs of equipment replacement, and highly qualified personnel. By comparison, the BioReSys solution operating costs are expected to be less than $0.5 million annually and will entirely be offset by revenue opportunities. This is due to the following advantages:
- Modular design in a cost-effective decentralized layout creating numerous small facilities vs. one single centralized unit, which is easier to supervise and operate, and easier to maintain;
- Much smaller CO2 and kWhr footprint because of biological procedures. BioReSys acts as a constructed wetland, using the lowest amount of energy with the smallest carbon footprint of all relevant technologies;
- Reduced number of components and absence of chemicals;
- Absence of high-tech components that would need to be imported for maintenance;
- Simpler design (leading to lower personnel costs).
Over the life of the system (here limited to 20 years), the difference in costs rapidly become very significant. Add to that difference the by-product revenues the BioReSys solution is designed to produce (and the standard system is meant to dispose of), the differences are astounding.
BioReSys consists of five different technologies – solids processing, pyrolysis, algae farming, living machines, and an anaerobic digester – that work together, in unison, as a biological system.
Waste water enters the system and solids and liquids (raw sewage) are separated using a standard cyclone/separator. This can be within the direct channel of water, or in a separate channel. In the case of the Vietnam project, initial flows are collected in a settling basin, from which the liquids overflow into an adjacent lined lagoon with weirs at either end to accommodate significantly higher water volumes during the rainy season.
In the settling basin, solids settle and are pumped on demand into a shredder/mixer where they are then dewatered further and mixed with solid organic waste (kitchen waste). This mixed high solid organic stream then enters the anaerobic digesters for 30-35 days as biogas is produced. In this part of the process, 99.5% of the pathogens are killed.
The biogas (mixture of methane and carbon dioxide (CO2)) when unseparated is trapped and passed to a furnace to be burned to heat the digesters and/or greenhouse. It may also be used elsewhere (as cooking gas, off-site heating or other uses in compression). The biogas can also be separated into methane (65%) to be used as fuel for cars or electricity generators, and CO2 (35%) to feed the algal farming unit.
In the algal farming unit, the CO2 and nutrient rich water (liquid from digesters and lagoon) flow through a system of tubular channels with high sunlight exposure. In the algae farming unit different algae can be used depending on the product desired: proteinous algae will produce feedstock while lipidinous algae will produce biofuel. Algae are then harvested, dried and pressed, producing algal biodiesel, feedstock, and fertilizer – all of which can be sold.
The spent digestate from the anaerobic digestion process is then removed and combined with ‘biochar’ from pyrolyzed wood waste-products. Biochar is a very light, porous carbon that is inoculated with nutrient-rich effluent to create a potent fertilizer (terra preta). The spent digestate is sent into the solids processing part of the system where it is dewatered , injected with a proprietary blend of micro-organisms, and fermented for 40 days. This produces an almost-dry fertilizer, which can be further dried and then sold. The fertilizers produced are rich in Nitrogen and microorganisms. The remaining nutrient-rich ‘greywater’ is transferred to the ‘living machines’ part of the system.
The living machines are a form of settling ponds, filtration wetlands and tidal wetlands. At this stage water can be used for non-potable applications, irrigation and aquaculture. The “machine aspects” of this part of the system are floating hydroponic islands with plants’ roots located directly in the water with low-power aeration. Microorganisms colonize the roots of these plants with a biofilm, which processes pollutants and excess nutrients contained in the water. Below is what happens in the living machines:
- Living machines are open containers/pools made of concrete or fiberglass covered with planted floating islands.
- The living machine container takes in water from the lagoon and from the solids processing system. The settling of the solids already reduces the biologic oxygen demand (BOD) by 40%; as solids are almost completely filtered in the dewatering process, the BOD becomes very low.
- The floating hydroponic islands cover roughly 2/3rds of the water surface area of the container. Plant roots hang into the water, providing surface area for microorganisms to aggregate and form the highly efficient bio-film.
- Microorganisms use organic and mineral components as nutrients, thus de-polluting the water. Their metabolism end-products are then used by plants as nutrients.
- A progressive series of basins progressively cleans the water. Aquaculture (tilapia) can then be added in the final basins.
- On these floating islands, hydroponic plants such as greens, cucumbers, and tomatoes grow, based on local preferences.
- The water can be treated once more to potable standards after leaving the final living machines container.
Sahajo understands that the vast majority of threatened freshwater supplies are located in regions or countries that cannot afford to build or maintain traditional industrial-style water treatment plants. By using a flexible, natural system like BioReSys, Sahajo can service a variety of global freshwater supply issues and turn these issues into profitable economic opportunities.
Water Stress and Limited Infrastructure Investment
There are plenty of studies showing water scarcity around the globe. By the middle of this century, seven billion people in 60 countries may be faced with water scarcity (at least two billion in 48 countries currently face such a harsh reality). Population growth and increased consumption per capita in developing countries will be the primary causes of the increase in scarcity. The average per capita water consumption is expected to increase significantly with economic growth and urbanization. Combined, tremendous pressure on fresh water supplies will be seen in even the wettest climates.
Currently, water contamination denies as many as 3.3 billion people access to clean water supplies. To express the impact of water pollution, one liter of waste water pollutes about eight liters of freshwater. That’s an estimated 12,000 km³ of polluted water worldwide, which is more than the total amount contained in the world’s ten largest river basins at any given moment. Therefore, if pollution keeps pace with population growth, the world will effectively lose 18,000 km³ of freshwater by 2050 – almost nine times the total amount countries currently use each year for irrigation, which is by far the largest consumer of the resource.
The situation is most dire in developing countries where an estimated 90% of waste water is discharged directly into rivers and streams without treatment. Each year there are about 250 million cases of water related diseases, with roughly five million deaths.
To combat this water contamination and insecurity, investments in public water supplies are required. If efficiencies are improved within irrigation systems and waste water can be reused, even as drinking water, the improvement in the system would double and even triple the global amount of available drinking water. However, with the existing cost of capital and construction, and the centralized utility-scale mindset of the water remediation and waste water treatment industry, very few governments at any level can afford the required investments.
A study by Global Water Intelligence and augmented by the United Nations division of Sustainable Development has shown that less than 50% of utilities in OECD countries were able to charge enough for water to pay for capital expenditures and improvements. In East Asia, that number was less than 20%. In Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and Africa, that number is zero. These utilities require subsidies from their governments in an environment where it is increasingly difficult to raise municipal or sovereign debt to pay for infrastructure improvements.
It is important to understand that approximately $90 billion is invested globally in water infrastructure annually. However, by some estimates, the United States alone requires over $1 trillion in water infrastructure improvements by 2025. The current global water infrastructure needs will not be fulfilled under existing paradigms.
Need for a New Solution
Because of the market’s current difficulty in finding sufficient funds for water infrastructure, Sahajo believes a better-designed system that increases water reuse while providing an economic return to a community will be well received. Specifically, such a solution should have the following characteristics:
- Limited capital expenditure and low operating cost requirements;
- Flexible design allows for ‘tuning’ to different volumes and types of water/waste inflow;
- Low energy requirements driven by a closed-loop energy system, in particular for remote sites or areas with limited energy options;
- Flexible design capabilities that limit the footprint of a system, specifically for high density urban areas often found in developing countries;
- Minimal or zero discharge of effluent, thereby reducing additional treatment costs and reducing risks of untreated spillage;
- High recovery rate of traditional waste streams and economic processing of organic and inorganic compounds into consumable end uses;
- Economic end uses directly benefit the community where the facility is located
- Flexible design enhances the creation and stabilization of sustainable community structures on an economic and social level
There are a number of categories of water remediation and waste water treatment entities that are seeking such a solution. These include
- Municipal and rural water agencies
- Agricultural water agencies and irrigation districts
- Private water managers, including commercial and industrial entities with remediation requirements – chemical, food and beverage, mining, oil and gas, etc.
- Design and engineering firms
Technology Trends – Zero-Discharge Systems
A variety of technological innovations continue to be developed every year that may improve water remediation and waste water solutions. From membranes to SCADA systems to ultra filtration, micro filtration, nano filtration to energy efficiency, there are a great many companies developing methods to improve the effectiveness and reduce the cost of existing solutions. While such continuous innovation and improvement will undoubtedly provide marginal performance and cost improvements, the paradigm shift required to manage our future world’s water and waste water needs is being overlooked. With an increasing demand on natural water resources unabated pollution posed by increasingly complex discharges into the environment, a philosophical change is required.
Zero Discharge Systems are a step in the right direction, and although limited in both potential and presence (roughly 100 waste water specific systems worldwide in late 2009), are worth a discussion here. In a waste water treatment facility, zero discharge theoretically means no discharge of any kind of pollutants into the environment. As this is practically impossible with current systems, the term zero discharge is loosely used to define no liquid discharge into the environment. So, quite often, zero discharge and zero liquid discharge are used in the same meaning. For all practical purposes, the concept of zero discharge means the following:
The recovery of reusable water/other materials from waste water;AND no discharge of polluting substances into the environment away from the waste water treatment facility.
As with conventional waste water treatment systems, zero discharge system also includes primary treatment, secondary treatment and tertiary treatment. The main objective of zero discharge is
- Waste water treatment processes do not generate any additional pollutants
- Processes and operating parameters are designed to minimize production of waste
- As much as possible, pollutants in the waste water are transferred to solid phase (sludge)
- Sludge is stored in a secured landfill
- Recovery of reusable materials, especially water, is maximized.
The most beneficial result of zero discharge efforts is the focus on recovering water for re-use. Nevertheless, these systems are expensive, extremely energy intensive (10 times more kWh per cubic meter treated than desalination) and are typically purchased only through necessity created by more stringent discharge regulations.
Currently, the wastewater treatment industry faces a number of challenges, including urban population growth, the need to treat wet weather flows, more stringent discharge regulations, and demand for water conservation through wastewater reuse. The EPA estimates that water and wastewater capacity will need to grow by 5 to 8% annually over the next decade.1 This trend is much, much sharper in developing parts of the world, where the pressure on water resources from increased industrialization and urbanization is forcing heightened awareness amongst regulatory bodies.
As water recycling and reuse becomes an increasing component of water management schemes, additional regulations concerning the treatment of effluent and the use of treated effluent will need to be enacted by national, state, and municipal governments around the globe.
The expectation is that regulated requirements for the quality of effluent of all types will continue to become more stringent. This will impact water and wastewater asset owners and their solutions providers by a) requiring cleaner output and b) making it tougher to obtain necessary permits and licenses required for discharge of effluent.
The typical costs and overall economic footprint of a traditional water remediation system varies based on the amount of water processed by the facility. While the installation cost of a system may range from the low tens of millions to the high hundreds of millions of dollars, the typical range is between $400-$1,300 USD per cubic meter. O&M costs are relatively consistent across facilities, with a typical plant shown in schema below.
If one momentarily ignores debt service of the capital expenditures undertaken in the development of a facility, labor, electricity, and liquid discharge fees account for 70% of the operating costs of a typical waste water treatment facility, with electricity typically representing 25 to 40% of total operating costs; these costs without debt service, are typically 15-30% of operating costs.
As a point of comparison, the BioReSys solution effectively eliminates the water discharge, chemical and sludge fees and significantly reduces electricity, staff, and maintenance costs.
As discussed previously, biological systems approach that Sahajo has built into its BioReSys solution is a paradigm change to the extant linear thinking that drives existing solutions. With that in mind, there are a large number of alternatives for water and waste water asset owners. This competition comes in the form of other systems integrators as well ‘packaged solutions’ manufacturers.
Systems integration for smaller systems is handled mainly by local and regional design-build firms who have relationships with local municipalities. Bids for the largest systems are often won by such design-build-operate companies as Veolia Water Services, Siemens Water Technologies, and Suez Water.
‘Packaged solutions’ manufacturers include General Electric, HPD/Veolia, and Aquatech. It should be noted that these are the same firms that are leaders in the nascent zero discharge market.
Sahajo believes that its differentiating factors will become sustainable competitive advantages as it moves deeper into the market. To review, the BioReSys differences are:
Project Process and Operations
How Sahajo Will Work With Asset Owners
The specifics of each design and build project vary depending upon the space, treatment, and flow requirements of the asset owner. However, there are a few steps that can be discussed in general to provide a prospective client an understanding of the Sahajo process.
Once an agreement has been finalized, the below provides an overview of Sahajo and asset owner responsibilities.
Projects in Process
Sahajo has a number of representative projects in various stages of completion. These are described below.
As described previously, Sahajo has signed a MOU with the city of Hanoi, Vietnam to clean up a series of channels that feed into the To Lich River. The proposal is to integrate small-footprint BioReSys solutions into each of 50 channels (150,000 CMD combined) that drain into the river, thereby completely changing the color, health, and use of the river.
Currently these channels bring untreated storm water and urban and household waste directly into the river, making it unsuitable for most uses. The pilot project will be on the Vinh Phuc channel, pictured in Figure below.
The densely populated urban setting does not allow for traditional water remediation solutions, and in this setting the flexibility of the BioReSys set up is a perfect fit.
The expected timeline for completion of this project is as follows.
Baku Bay, Azerbaijan
Sahajo is working with a number of ministries in Baku, Azerbaijan to remediate the city’s bay.
An initial plan and pre-feasibility study has been completed and Figure 1Figure 6 below provides a view of that the final project would look like.
The high pollution levels in the bay are a major concern to the Azerbaijani people. There are at least 31 different locations where over 400,000 CMD/day of untreated industrial waste is dumped directly into the bay. The contamination found in the bay exceed sanitary norms by
10-50x for hydrocarbons, 18-30x for phenols, 2-5x for mercury, and 1-2x for detergents. The main sources of waste water are oil refineries, power plants, chemical and petrochemical plants, and Caspian Sea navigation.
The resulting environmental situation in the bay is catastrophic. The seabed is covered with
domestic and human waste, oil products, heavy metals and organic compounds. No seabed
benthic fauna is present – a virtual dead zone.
Sahajo has proposed completing the project in four major phases, which are listed below.
The Sahajo business model is based on a positive cash cycle, where payment for initial phases of work is made prior to the commencement of that stage. This is reflected in the company’s expected cash flow and net cash position, as seen in .
(Based on average 150,000-200,000 cbm additional capacity added every year adjusted for inflation plus fees for pilot projects and feasibility studies for various projects)
Sahajo’s pro forma are based on the expected work from water remediation projects around the globe. The dynamics and profitability of each project will vary based on project specifics, although Sahajo expects to achieve net margins in the high teens.
Contracted revenue over the forecast period is seen in figure, and is defined as the expected size of contracts signed in that year. This is not the accounting definition of revenues, which for Sahajo are the monies earned as contracted phases of projects are completed and are reflected in revenues (see table below ).
Figure shows the expected cumulative amount of water processed using the BioReSys solution.
The Sahajo business model is based on a positive cash cycle, where payment for initial phases of work is made prior to the commencement of that stage. This is reflected in the company’s expected cash flow and net cash position, as seen in the table below: